Blogs

This is the archive, and commenting on the new site

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2018 – 5:01 pm

This is my final post on this platform, and it will serve as the reminder we are on the new platform and that commenting is being done there now (meaning I will not be monitoring the comments made here any longer.)

If you are looking for my blog on the new platform, here is the page:

https://www.azcardinals.com/news/blogs/words-from-the-birds

For those who want to comment, it can be found at the bottom of any blog post or any article. You are going to have to either sign in through a social account (those icons are self-explanatory by where you comment) or open a Disqus account. That too has an icon to click. (A screenshot is below.) I hope to see everyone there.


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Christian Kirk charges dismissed

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2018 – 2:55 pm

After news broke that Christian Kirk had been charged following a February arrest at the Phoenix Open, the Cardinals pointed out they had done their own research and were confident in their selection of the rookie wide receiver. That has been underscored now that the charges against Kirk have been formally dropped.

“From the beginning, I was confident that the facts and the truth would ultimately validate the type of person that I am,” Kirk said in a statement. “I am grateful that was indeed the case. I appreciate all the support I have received while this process has played out, particularly from my family and friends as well as the Cardinals and this community.”

Coach Steve Wilks had addressed the situation May 15.

“We knew about it,” Wilks said then. “We did our own independent research on it, and we felt very good about the information that we received and that’s why we moved forward in drafting him. As I stated before, we want to bring in great character guys, and I think Christian is one of those guys. I think the situation is going to resolve itself here in a couple of months. And with it still being an on-going legal issue, I’m not going to go into it any further than that.”

 


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Keim time? Considering depth at safety

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2018 – 1:25 pm

The Cardinals made a recent move to add to their secondary when they traded for cornerback Jamar Taylor. Perhaps another move to add a safety is forthcoming. Multiple tweets indicated veteran safety Tre Boston — who spent last season with the Chargers but was with Steve Wilks in Carolina before that — will visit the Cards. Boston has been a name thrown around quite a bit this offseason as a match with Arizona, especially after Tyrann Mathieu was released.

Boston played with the Chargers on a one-year deal hoping to get big bucks this offseason. That market never materialized. This is the area in which GM Steve Keim excels, finding players that fit what the Cardinals need and giving those veteran free agents the ability to maximize the situation, even if the base salary isn’t quite what they were hoping. At safety, the Cardinals have Budda Baker and Antoine Bethea and then other pieces they are investigating. A player like Boston would definitely focus the situation, if he were to sign.


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Change is coming

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2018 – 9:25 am

As I have hinted toward in some comments, change is coming to this website and this blog. The site itself will have a different look, and it also means the blog will finally move within the site on the backend. What that means for you, the reader (and in many cases, the commenter) is that there will be a new way to post comments going forward.

The commenting platform that will be used is called Disqus. I am sure that some of you would rather not have anything change, but progress is inevitable, and given that this has been the blog’s platform for nearly a decade (and, might I add, kept on this platform despite being advised to move away from it some time ago), it has been a good run.

(The archives to the current blog — and the comments with them — will live on and be available, BTW.)

Again, I want to stress, the blog isn’t going away. I will still be writing in the same style. There will still be comments on each post. I hope everyone that has consistently been part of the community — and we all know who you are — will continue to be in the community. It may take some getting used to, but I’m confident everyone will make it through.


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With letter, Steve Wilks makes small difference

Posted by Darren Urban on May 28, 2018 – 10:17 am

Steve Wilks did not know Mike Thompson, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals’ head coach from reaching out to Thompson’s widow recently after Thompson’s unexpected death. Thompson was a Pop Warner coach and an assistant for Desert Ridge High School, and was only 51 years old.

“I did not have the pleasure of knowing Mike but feel as if I did after reading of his dedication to the sport of football as a coach at the Pop Warner and high school levels,” Wilks wrote in the letter to Carri Thompson. “We share in your grief over his loss but know that he lives on through the countless individuals that have been positively impacted by Mike.”

The letter meant a ton to Thompson’s family. It also underscored the type of person Wilks is, and how he keeps football in perspective.

At one point, when I was talking to Wilks for a story about who he is as a coach, Wilks emphasized his desire to let players know they have to have a life that goes beyond football. There was a famous story of Wilks as an assistant in Carolina striking up a relationship with a disabled man who worked at his local YMCA, not for the fanfare but because it just seemed like a good thing to do.

“I tell people all the time, and it’s the same thing I try to relate to the players,” Wilks said. “(Football) is what we do. This is not who we are.”

No, Wilks didn’t know Mike Thompson. But he knew what it meant for Thompson to put time in to teach children — and that his family is hurting right now. In a broader sense, that’s what Wilks was talking about in that interview a few months ago.

“I want to bring world championship here,” Wilks said. “But the true measurement of a champion does not lie within his or her trophy case. It lies within the people he or she has touched. If we’re not trying to make a difference in the lives of the people we come in contact with, to me, we’re missing the point.”


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The future of kickoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 22, 2018 – 8:11 am

One of the things on the owners’ agenda during their current meeting in Atlanta are — again — tweaks to the kickoffs. The idea, of course, is to try and make the play a little safer, given that the rate of concussions on kickoffs remains considerably higher than any other part of the game. Most of the changes won’t be in-your-face. The wedge, which was already pared down from a handful of players once upon a time to just two, will likely be eliminated entirely (meaning only one-on-one blocks.) That’d be a win for the coverage team. Eight of the 11 return men would also have to be within 15 yards of the ball, creating a big hole beyond those players. More chances for mortar onsides kicks, perhaps?

On the other side, the kickoff team will no longer be able to get a running head start, which is a significant difference. They also must balance with five players on each side of the tee — so it’s a little easier to line up blockers.

The kickoff is a play that will constantly be evolving in the name of safety. There is no guarantee it won’t be eliminated for that reason somewhere down the road. That would bring a bunch of new questions — without kickoffs, rosters would most certainly be constructed somewhat differently. But for now, there will be more change, and then more evaluation.

 


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A potential No. 2 cornerback in trade

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2018 – 2:35 pm

It sounds like there will be no Bashaud Breeland signing. But there would be a good reason for that — multiple reports Friday have the Cardinals closing in on a trade for veteran Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor. Taylor is a one-time second-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013, and the cost in the trade — again, by multiple outlets — is a sixth-round pick not next year, but in 2020. In structure, it looks a lot like the deal the Cards made in 2016 for cornerback Marcus Cooper (who was acquired for a seventh-round pick in 2018.)

If the Cards were to get Taylor, having him pan out like Cooper would be a plus. Cooper had a solid season across from Patrick Peterson in 2016. Taylor would presumably be the eventual starter across from Peterson, although I would guess coach Steve Wilks would likely — as he does with all spots — announce that the competition is ongoing. There are other veteran options already on the roster. But Taylor, who has three career interceptions (all coming in 2016), would be a welcome addition to the mix.

UPDATE: It’s official now.


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Special Cardinals on all-time special teams

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2018 – 9:15 am

You can see the emphasis Steve Wilks is putting on special teams early on in his tenure, devoting a good chunk of both Phase Two and Phase Three on-field work every day to let special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers do his thing. Along those lines, the Cardinals have had some pretty good special teamers over the years, and that was noted when veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin — who has long had a detailed system on how to rank special teams units and is an expert on that part of the game — created his all-time special teams lineup.

Three Cardinals made the list, all for their coverage work. Four-time Cardinals special teams Pro Bowler Ron Wolfley, now the Cards’ color analyst, made Gosselin’s first team, along with a quote from Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who was Wolfley’s coach when both were in Cleveland.

“Wolfley had less speed than those other guys,” Belichick said. “But he was very tough with a top motor. He was physical to run through blockers. He wasn’t always the first downfield, but he was around the ball and smart to recognize wall returns and the blocking schemes. He played next to the center on the punt team and was both strong and smart in protection.”

The other two Cardinals landed on the second-team, and are more recent vintage. The just-departed Justin Bethel never quite worked out as a cornerback, but he was excellent on special teams, making three Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Cardinals. And Sean Morey was one of the first players Ken Whisenhunt brought over from Pittsburgh. Morey made a Pro Bowl as a Cardinal as well, memorably blocking a punt in overtime in 2008 that Monty Beisel recovered for a game-winning overtime touchdown against Dallas.


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Veteran cornerback Breeland on Cards’ radar

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2018 – 10:34 am

Veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland was one of the first free agents signed back in March. He signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Panthers — only to have the deal voided when he came in for his physical and he had a foot infection suffered while on vacation. Since then, Breeland, who played last year in Washington, has been trying to get healthy.

He’s apparently OK now, because he reportedly is making visits again, and the Cardinals are on his list. Rob Demovsky of ESPN said Breeland is supposed to visit the Colts today and the Cards Thursday. The order in which a player makes his visits is always crucial, because the first team has a chance to never let him leave. Then again, it will be interesting to see what the market is monetarily for Breeland. Can he get another three-year deal like he did originally (with about $11 million guaranteed?) This is the time of year when it’s always about expectations: The expectations of the player and what he can earn, and the expectations of what a team thinks it can get a player for, especially when the free agent has made it to mid-May.

Certainly, the Cardinals have been looking at what they can do at their second cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. “We are looking for someone to step up on the other side of Patrick — whether it is Brandon (Williams), whether it is Lou Young, whether it is Bené Benwikere, whether it is (rookie Chris Campbell,” coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday. Maybe that someone comes from the outside.


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Josh Rosen and his particular outside noise

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2018 – 9:39 am

Clearly — and especially in this day of instant Internet reactions — Josh Rosen is a lightning rod. It wasn’t hard to notice from afar pre-draft when the quarterback was just a potential NFL player, but it’s a lot easier after the Cardinals drafted him. The emotions he apparently stirs, for fans everywhere but notably for fans of teams for which Rosen does not play, are oddly strong. (And often having nothing to do with football.)

It’s not difficult to find this stuff, and you’d think for a 21-year-old, it would weigh on him. But Rosen insists it does not, and he sounds genuine when he says that.

“You ignore it,” Rosen said. “It’s not that hard. It’s only hard if you make it hard. If you are Googling your name every other day and reaching out to people, yeah, you can make it hard for yourself. But as far as I know, if you keep your phone limited to messages and calls, don’t read too much (you’re OK.) The only thing that really matters is the guys in the building (at the Cardinals’ complex). That’s where I am trying to keep it right now.”

Rosen said he got to this point mentally because of a lot of “awesome mentors,” both former and current NFL players who have provided advice — whether they were guys who have always handled that part of the gig well, or even guys who might’ve handled it poorly and now have advice on how to do it better.

“I’m not going to say who,” Rosen said, “but thank you to all you guys.”


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